NASCAR Picks for Infineon
Length: 1.990 miles
Shape: Road Course
Type: Road Course
Location: Sonoma, California
Article: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Practice Recap: Drivers to Watch
For the first time in 2013, Cup drivers will be making both left and right turns when the series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend. The 10-turn, 1.99-mile track is known as the more technically challenging of the two road course venues. With uphill and downhill snaking sections capped by a hard right-hand turn, drivers must be precise with both their braking and shifting in order to tackle Sonoma. Drivers must also time their passing attempts properly because there are only so many areas on the track where gaining positions can be done with any type of ease. Throw in fuel mileage strategy, and road racing is definitely one of the more unique challenges drivers face.
Of course, building a fantasy lineup for a road course can be challenge, as well. Certain drivers that are mediocre options most weeks are actually some of the best road racers and vice versa. Meanwhile, owners also have to decide whether or not to take a chance on any of the road course ringers that often land rides with some of the smaller team for these events. History says that series regulars are more reliable, but there is some upside with the road ringers. The beauty of a road course event is that owners can choose to be as aggressive or conservative as they want to be when picking their drivers because there are a lot of lineup variations that can be effective at a road course.
Marcos Ambrose, #9 Stanley/Dewalt Power Tools, Richard Petty Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
While he has plenty of limitations as a fantasy option, there is little disputing Ambrose's status as the top road course driver. He has a series-leading 3.8 average finish and a series-high 170 points scored at road races the past two years; at Sonoma, he has four straight finishes of eighth or better. Ambrose infamously gave away a win at Sonoma a few years ago when he stalled his car under caution while leading with a couple of laps to go, but he has been just about flawless otherwise.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Stewart's seven road course victories are the second most in NASCAR history, and his 10.9 average finish at Sonoma is the third best among active drivers. He has five top-10s in his last six starts at the track, and is a two-time winner at Sonoma for his career. Stewart finished second in this race one year ago, and he should be back in the mix for the win this weekend.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Believe or not, there was a time when road courses were an Achilles heel of Johnson's. Well, those days are gone, and he has posted a 6.2 average finish in the last four road races. Johnson has been even better at Sonoma, reeling off four-straight finishes of seventh or better, posting a 4.3 average finish and winning in 2010.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has emerged as a road course ace in recent years, and Bowyer has actually scored the second-most points at road races over the past two years. More importantly, he is the defending champion of this weekend's race, and he has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six starts at Sonoma. During the stretch, Bowyer has finished fourth or better four times.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon will likely retire as the best road racer in NASCAR history, and five of his record nine road course wins have come at Sonoma. Meanwhile, his 8.6 average finish at the track is the best in the series, and he has finished in the top 10 in 16 of his 20 starts at the track. In fact, Gordon has logged seven-straight top-10s at Sonoma, making him one of the safest options available to fantasy owners this weekend.
Kurt Busch, #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Sonoma has been kind to Busch the past two years. He won at the track for Penske Racing in 2011, and he finished third last year while driving for Phoenix Racing. Busch has already shown he can run up front at Sonoma regardless of what team he is driving for, so there is no reason he can't put together another strong run at the track this weekend for Furniture Row Racing.
Juan Montoya, #42 Target, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although he hasn't had the best luck at Sonoma the last two years, Montoya's road racing skills are legit. He has finished in the top 10 in four of his six starts at Sonoma, and he went to victory lane in his track debut. In fact, Montoya has wins at both road courses on the Cup schedule, so he has plenty of upside this weekend.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He can be a little inconsistent when it comes to his finishes, but Busch always seems to have a fast car when he shows up at the road courses. After all, he has won at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen in his career, and he has led a series-high 92 laps at road races the past two years. In roto formats that factor in driver rating, running position and other loop date categories, Busch is an even more valuable option.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
While he is still looking for a road course win, Keselowski has quietly turned himself into a rock solid road racer. He ranks third in the series in points scored at road course events the last two years, posting a 6.5 average finish during the stretch. Keselowski has been a little better at Watkins Glen in his career, but he does have back-to-back top-12 efforts at Sonoma, as well.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although Harvick's road course wins have come at Watkins Glen, he has been consistent at Sonoma (especially lately). He has posted a 9.3 average finish in his last three starts at the track, and for his career, he has finished in the top three on three occasions. Harvick isn't the best pick in survival-type leagues where fantasy owners are looking for wins, but he should make a solid addition in other formats.
Brian Vickers, #55 Aaron's Dream Machine, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Vickers made the most of his first start at Sonoma with Michael Waltrip Racing last year by posting a strong fourth-place finish. His follow-up effort at Watkins Glen ended early with an engine failure, but his top-five finish at Sonoma is more than enough to make him an intriguing fantasy option this weekend.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He isn't known for his road racing skills, but Biffle has been very reliable at Sonoma throughout his career. He has cracked the top 15 in seven of his last nine starts at the track and has finished seventh in two of his last three starts. Biffle probably won't end up in victory lane this weekend, but he should bring the No. 16 home in or around the top 10.